Black Family and Child Services mourns death of founder, announces new CEO

Mary M. Black

Mary M. Black, founder of Black Family and Child Services of Arizona (BFCS) has died at the age of 69. She started the nonprofit social service agency in 1984 and served as its CEO for 35 years.

Black retired from her leadership role in October 2019 due to illness. Her death was not related to the coronavirus.

Shawn Pearson, a 25-year veteran of nonprofit business administration and community service in Phoenix began serving as CEO of the agency in January of this year, following Black’s retirement.

“Ms. Black’s pioneering work touched and improved the lives of thousands of children and families throughout the course of her amazing career,” said Pearson. “On behalf of the BFCS staff, our clients, our supporters, advocates and generous donors, I want to express our deepest sympathy to Ms. Black’s family and my personal commitment to continue serving children and families through this agency to carry her legacy forward,” she added. “We will all miss her vision, energy and selfless dedication to helping people very much.”

During her three and a half decades as the leader of BFCS, Black oversaw growth of the agency from four employees sharing one small office to one of the most respected nonprofit child welfare and behavioral health agencies in Arizona.

Since 1984, the agency has supervised the placement of thousands of children into foster homes, placed hundreds of children into adoptive homes and provided behavioral health, substance abuse counseling, after-school programs and other services to thousands of others.

Black received a number of prestigious national, regional and local awards during her tenure as CEO of BFCS, including being recognized as one of Arizona’s 48 Most Intriguing Women in conjunction with the state’s centennial celebration. She was recognized for her leadership and service to the greater Phoenix community by the Phoenix Suns on Martin Luther King Day in 2014. Black was an alumnus of Valley Leadership Class 10. A more complete list of her awards can be found on the agency’s website,

Shawn Pearson

Pearson is the founder of Zion Institute, a nonprofit organization established in 2010 to break cycles of generational poverty for residents in South Phoenix communities.

Her professional background includes more than 25 years of nonprofit business administration, community service and public speaking. Pearson has provided leadership and management consultation services and trained staff at more than 100 agencies, businesses, churches and government entities across the United States, including Arizona, California, Texas, Georgia, and Florida.

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